OED: 1,500 Oregonians given unemployment then asked to pay it back

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Woman: 'You gave me the money, you told me I was approved, how was I supposed to know?'

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Following a story Wednesday about a woman who waited months for unemployment benefits only to be asked to return the money, KOIN 6 News heard from 10 more people who said they’re in the same situation.

The acting director of the Oregon Employment Department told KOIN 6 News over the phone that he estimated about 1,500 people are in a situation where they were paid benefits but now have to pay them back for one reason or another.

That’s the case for Sophia McIntosh, who applied for regular unemployment benefits in March. In July, she said 14 checks from the Oregon Employment Department showed up in the mail all at once. She said she used the money to pay bills and thought everything was fine until she got a letter in the mail on November 4 saying she has to pay back $4,800.

This completely shocked McIntosh because before this, she had no idea her claim was denied or that she needed to file an appeal.

“You gave me the money, you told me I was approved, how was I supposed to know?” McIntosh said. “I physically cannot pay this back, that’s why I was asking for unemployment in the first place, cause I didn’t have money.”

McIntosh said she’s been trying to get a hold of someone with OED but hasn’t had any luck. The acting director for OED told us they are bound by federal law to collect benefit overpayments. In some cases, he said information they got from people when they decided to pay them benefits turned out to be different later when they looked into the claim further. However, if it truly was an error on their part, he said the person wouldn’t owe the money back.

McIntosh is still going to try to file an appeal but said this just isn’t right.

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